How to Establish Mental Freedom

eternal_sunshine_by_velocitysc43As the 4th of July approaches here in the United States we celebrate our freedom and independence as a country. Yet, all of us know that this Holiday means so much more then that. Besides the patriotic aspect, I also look at the celebration of freedom on more of a personal level.For myself, feeling mentally “free” is an on-going battle. I stress out way too much over things I have little or no control over. I worry about things that haven’t happened yet or may not even happen at all and I dwell on the the past. I’ve spent countless nights awake in bed wondering why I didn’t do or say something differently. As an intelligent logical person I know how this is a waste of precious time, but logic kind of goes out the window sometimes.

For a long time I felt that I could only feel “free” if I fixed certain things about myself or my life. The truth is the only thing that was holding me back from feeling “free” was myself. It took me 32 years to come to this realization and to be honest there are days when I have to remind myself I am in control of myself.

One of the most “freeing” things you can do immediately is to stop taking things personally. Falling victim to others negativity and criticism takes up a large amount of energy. Doing this is easier said then done, but it is truly liberating.

Another helpful tip- accept things for what they are. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “it is what it is.” Just accept it. Don’t belly ache over what something should/could/would have been. Move on.

If there are people in your life who are just weighing you down with their drama and negativity, it is time to cut them loose. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes friends and even family can be toxic. Don’t allow yourself to be victimized by these emotional vampires. There are so many loving, loyal, and accepting people out there.

Finally, practice forgiveness. When we forgive someone we release any of the power that we have over us. Forgiveness is not about saying whatever happened was “okay” it is more about just letting it go.

Happy Independence Day to all!

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I don’t eat anything with a face

lisa_the_vegetarian

This post was inspired by a post Jillian from How to Be Myself wrote regarding one of the top questions vegetarians are asked, “What do you eat?” Every time I hear this question I roll my eyes and recite the same response I give to everyone, “I don’t eat anything with a face.”

For the past five years I’ve been a vegetarian. My decision to go down this road was based on the fact that I just never really liked meat. I ate it because it was convenient. Every meal is usually based around some kind of meat being the main course with a few veggies as a side dish. On Thanksgiving I’d fill my plate with brussel sprouts (I LOVE them), broccoli, carrots, mashed potatoes, and of course stuffing. Have you ever been involved in the process of cooking a turkey? The thought of reaching up inside the turkey to pull out the heart, giblets, neck, and other body parts I’d never like to see, makes me nauseous. On top of that, my family used to make a separate batch of stuffing including some of those internal organs.

When I was about 5 years old my Mother worked at a meat processing plant. For some reason I went to work with her one day and was escorted through part of it. Although my Mother tried to cover my eyes, I still peeked and saw headless turkeys hung by a hook, moving down a conveyor belt like they were in a conga line.

Anyway, quitting meat is probably one of the best health choices I have made. I no longer eat fast food because many of the restaurants do not have vegetarian options. When I do go out to eat I look up the menu before hand to make sure there is something I can eat. Otherwise, I just order food without the meat. Being a vegetarian has forced me to make better food choices as well. I’ll pass on the burger and fries for a salad. Vegetables are my main course and yes, I get plenty of protein. One of my favorite meals is portobello mushroom cheese steaks. Black beans are a favorite too! Did you know you can make a cake with them? On occasion I’ll eat a meat substitute like a veggie burger or ‘chicken’ nuggets. Fake meats are highly processed so, it is best to stay away from them. Being a vegetarian has also opened up my creative side when it comes to cooking. I’ve been introduced to new cuisines I may have never tried like Thai food.

Do I miss eating meat? Nope, not at all. The only downside I’ve faced while being a vegetarian is feeling like an inconvenience to those that do eat meat. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “We can’t eat there because Jamie doesn’t eat meat.” It seems to me meat eaters have more issues with those who choose not to eat meat then vice versa. The bottom line is that most vegetarians eat the same things carnivores eat, just without meat!

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The time I wanted to run a marathon

marathon chicIn the beginning of 2013 I jumped on the running band wagon and decided I was going to run a 5K by April. I froze my butt off getting up super early before work, in the dark, to run on icy snow covered side walks. I bought a pair of $120 custom fit running shoes and started the couch to 5k program. I didn’t think I was out of shape by any means. I go to the gym on a regular basis and lifted weights. I’m not the fittest person, but I am in okay shape. When it came to running though I discovered I was a beginner. Nothing AND I MEAN NOTHING for me was harder then running. The Couch to 5k program was amazing as it slowly pushed me to run more and more not too quickly. Investing in a foam roller was the best thing I could have done as I was sore ALL of the time. After a few weeks I built up my stamina and started pushing myself. I averaged a little over 11 miles a limit, but for me that was good enough. My goal was to run a 5k and try to keep it under 30 minutes. My husband and I signed up for the Zombie Run in Philadelphia in April of 2013. Basically, you run through a course trying to avoid zombie that are trying to steal and pop balloons tied to your waist.

So for 4 months I busted my butt and was finally able to run a full 30 minutes, slowly but, I could do it. I won’t like, I HATED running. Yet, once I started I felt unstoppable. It hurt (in a good way) but it felt so good to push myself. If I had a crappy day at work I’d put on my running shoes and run it out. Afterwards I felt absolutely exhausted physically, but so much better emotionally.

We ran the 5k and I came in a little over 30 minutes. I had a hard time pacing myself since it was a bit hard to dodge zombies and run in a group of a few hundred people. I tended to try to keep up with others who ran faster then myself. Regardless, I ran the full race and was incredibly happy with myself.

Next, I wanted to tackle a 10k and then my goal was to run a marathon by the time I was 35. I thought 5 years was a reasonable amount of time to train.

Then this happened…

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Minor foot fracture as well as some torn muscle in my ankle. I was in a bit of pain before I gave up and went to the doctor. I decided to “run” through it. Bad idea. I blamed it on my shoes or the fact that I was running too much on pavement and tried to cut back as much as I could. Eventually the pain was so unbearable. After three MRI’s 2 doctors, I was put into a boot air cast and prescribed physical therapy. To this day my ankle does not feel right. I stretch, ice, and massage it but the lump above my ankle does not seem to go away. I think it may be scar tissue. It bothers me from time to time when I go for a brisk walk or use the elliptical for a long period of time, but I just deal. I’ve come to the conclusion it will never be 100% and most likely my “running days” are over. It saddens me as I never felt so physically challenged before. I imagined time and time again crossing the marathon finish line, exhausted, in pain, all while shedding tears of happiness.

In order to keep myself motivated I save several quotes that got me through those tough times, so I thought I’d share them. They can be applied to anything, running, life, or just achieving any goal.

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Simple things to release stress

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The past few days I was lucky enough to spend some time at Long Beach Island in New Jersey. I’ve never been there before, but it was a typical tourist beach city. Although, it is almost of the end of September, so most of the places were shut down. Regardless, it was okay with us. We wanted to keep things very low key as I had a lot of school work to finish up and the Husband had plenty of comic book reading to catch up on.

It was fairly cold so sitting at the beach was not really an option. We spent most of our time hanging out at the because house someone, whom I work with, graciously lent us.

Anyway, between work and school I have been incredibly stressed lately. I’m not sleeping very well either. So, my time away was to help me decompress. Here are a few of my secrets that help me stress quickly.

1.) Stretch *almost* every single night before bed I stretch. My muscle get so tense from sitting at the desk all day long and then going home to sit in front of the computer a few days at night. Even if you just dedicate 10 minutes a night right before bed, you will notice a huge difference. It is important as we get older to maintain some flexibility. I’m definitely not a Yogi and will probably never do a head stand (although I wish I could). Here is a link to my stretching pin board. Pick a few simple ones and just try it out for a week. Let me know how you feel!

2.) DRINK WATER. As a kid I lived on soda and that Lipton ice tea powder crap growing up. There are so many benefits to drinking water but a few of the most important are:  it flushes out toxins, keeps muscle and joint pain minimal as it helps keeps them lubricated, and it helps improve skin complexion. I try to drink at least 1 liter of water a day at work because I have a limitless water cooler and am free to go to the bathroom when I choose.

3.) Snack all day long! Let me rephrase this… snack on healthy foods all day long. Fruits, carrot sticks, un-salted almonds, low-fat yogurt, are some great ones.

4.) Exercise. I get it. You just worked 8+hours and you are completely exhausted, but will a 20 minute walk kill you? I had a gym membership for years and while I enjoyed going, most of the time just getting into the building was my problem. It was too cold or snowing or nice etc, etc. Going to the gym after work took at least an hour out of my time and with my current situation, I do not have an extra hour to spare. We invested in a decent elliptical that we keep in our basement. It still takes a lot of will power, but just being able to go downstairs without having to drive anywhere to work out is so much more convenient. There are so many incredible exercise videos on YouTube as well if you do not have an equipment at home.

5.) Meal Prep. Duh. I am so sick of seeing this meal prep garbage all over the internet, but I have to admit, it really is the right way to do things. Sundays I usually go shopping and plan a menu for the week that I *try* to follow. We cut up all of our veggies and fruits so that way we are prepared for the week. I like to soak my veggies and fruits in a mixture of water and a splash of vinegar. After a few minutes I thoroughly rinse off my produce in a colander. I set them out to dry on this veggie drying mat and pack them into Tupperware and keep in the fridge. There are many nights I don’t feel like cooking even though I’ve prepped so we will get take out. It really isn’t a big deal!

6.) Decompress. Yes, it is easier said then done, but so important. I get up for work around 6:30 am, I am a very light sleeper and have difficulty staying asleep so my bed time may be a little earlier then most. Around 9pm I retire to my bedroom. Usually I’ll do a few stretches before bed as it helps relax my muscles. To take my mind off of things I like to read a book, a magazine, or draw. This way my mind isn’t focused on my daily “to do” list.

I put together a small collage of a few things that I believe are essential to my relaxation routine. Click the image to be taken directly to Polyvore to view where you can buy these tools. Also, check out target and your local Barnes and Nobles. They sell self massage tools there that are really reasonably priced!

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